An event organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to flag off the exercise held at the National Hospital in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, launched the exercise on behalf of the President.
‘Nobody Is Safe’
He noted that it was another great milestone in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, saying the people have every cause to be hopeful and more determined to win the fight against the disease.
According to Mustapha, the human activities that culminated in the arrival, authorisation, and distribution of vaccines have shown that humanity, when working for a common goal and unity of purpose, possesses the capacity to achieve a lot.
“This is more so because the virus spread around all countries and territories of the world with alarming speed, recording millions of fatalities and infections without discrimination on the basis of sex, creed, tribe, language and even status,” he said.
The SGF added, “For us in Nigeria, and indeed nations of the world, we must approach the vaccine phase with a unity of purpose.
“We must understand that nobody is safe until everyone is vaccinated. We must recognise that vaccines hesitancy will impact negatively on our lives.”
He also commended the frontline healthcare workers for their commitment to saving the lives of infected people across the country.
More Than Enough Vaccines
On his part, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, urged the people to remain calm, saying Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines were more than enough to go round.
He explained that the country would receive the vaccines in stages, noting that the vaccination campaign would be in four phases that would align with the planned arrival of the jabs.
Each of the phases, according to the minister, targets a specific segment of the eligible population to ensure equity in the vaccine deployment.
He, however, stated that pregnant women, nursing mother, and children were not eligible for the vaccines yet and called on all eligible groups to get vaccinated as at when due.
“The defined frontline health care workers are prioritised globally for vaccinations against COVID-19 due to their higher exposure to the risk of COVID-19 infection in the line of duty,” Ehanire said.
He also revealed that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) had certified the AstraZeneca vaccine safe for use in Nigeria.
The minister clarified that the government agency cleared the vaccine for use in the country after it concluded its final test on it, saying he got the information some minutes into Friday.
He noted that had NAFDAC not certified the use of the vaccine, the government would have postponed the event to flag off the exercise.
‘Don’t Play Politics’
Also present at the event was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, while the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, was represented by a lawmaker.
In his remarks, Gbajabiamila praised the frontline health workers for putting their lives on the line and manifesting what it was to be true Nigerians.
He noted that Nigeria was already on the path to recovery from the disease and immunity that its people have longed for.
The lawmaker urged Nigerians not to give in to conspiracy theories about the vaccines, such as comparing a brand to another.
“We should encourage the government in providing and rolling out as many more vaccines as possible… the rollout plan is just as important as the vaccine itself.
“We must not play politics with the vaccine, we must not play politics with the health of our neighbours, we must be on the same page,” he said.
History Is Made
Shortly after these speakers and other top government officials took turns to address the gathering, the first jab was administered to a medical doctor at the isolation centre at the National Hospital.
Dr Ngong Cyprian has been a frontline health worker since March 2020 – days after the first case of the disease was reported in the country.
The vaccine was administered to him by the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, who presented the doctor with an electronic card that has a QR code.
According to Shuaib, the code contains the information of recipients of vaccines and is needed to verify details of such persons, especially for the purpose of travelling out of the country.
“It shows exactly what vaccines he (Cyprian) has taken; when he took the first and the second doses, and it will also show his photograph.
“This is also an electronic card as it were because of the QR code. This card also contains the exact batch number of the vaccines that he has taken,” he told the gathering at the event.
The NPHCDA boss noted that more health workers were being trained to make them perfect in what they do not just in Abuja, but across the country.
‘I Feel Good’
Another medical practitioner, Dr Sahil Yunusa, and two other health workers joined Cyprian as the first set of people to take the vaccines in Nigeria.
Yunusa works at the isolation centre in Gwagwalada in Abuja, where the lives of 10,549 COVID-19 patients are said to have been saved.
Shortly after taking the jab, Cyprian said, “You can see, I just took the vaccine now and I feel good. I have dreamt of taking the vaccine and I have taken the vaccine today.
“We’ve been at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight here in National Hospital at the Isolation Centre under the able leadership of the National Hospital.”
“I think that is about the best news we’ve heard since. I only wished my dad had had this vaccine, maybe months ago or so. We lost him but we thank God, and the fight is still on and we will win,” he added.
Amid the rising figure of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the fight against the outbreak received a major boost on Tuesday as Nigeria took delivery of its first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX, a World Health Organisation (WHO)-backed initiative set up to procure and ensure equitable distribution of vaccines for free among countries across the world.
The first shipment of 3,924,000 doses of the vaccines arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on Tuesday afternoon via an Emirates airplane from India.
In preparation for the distribution, the Federal Government had said the vaccines would be administered in the order of priority, with the frontline health workers on the top of the list.
It noted that it would also consider the elderly and the strategic leaders in the country – such as the President and other key public office holders in the country.